Autumn Trail

16-2798-trailWe only have 17  miles of roads in Fort Yukon and they are all dirt. This is a trail made by 4-wheelers and used by snow-goes in the winter. There are many times more trails than roads and you are free to start your own. Of course, the distinction between roads and trails is rather blurred. The nearer trees are poplar, or cottonwood. You can see the white bark of an aspen stand farther down the trail.

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My Bulldozer

16-2824-fall-dozerThe bulldozer rests behind my cabin. It hasn’t moved in the past six years – it just sits there sinking into the earth and rusting into oblivion. Time has stolen its headlights and our harsh winters have stripped most of its once cheery yellow paint.

A machine built to subdue the earth – now an ignominious perch for birds.

The Wright Choice

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We departed Fort Yukon on Saturday at 3:30 pm on Wright Air, headed for Fairbanks. There are 3 carriers out of the Fort and Wright’s is the only one we will fly. Their Grand Caravans are reliable even in extreme cold and so are their pilots.

Saturday’s pilot warned us that by the time we passed Birch Creek, about 30 miles south, we wouldn’t be seeing much. That was an understatement! Thirty seconds beyond the Yukon it was a white out, so I leaned against the window and fell asleep. At some point I awoke and saw this unknown creek cutting across the landscape below me, so I snapped a quick picture of it just as the snow clouds closed in again.

That was the last thing we saw until the runway lights guided us onto the East Ramp in Fairbanks. The flight normally takes 55 minutes; strong headwinds and zero visibility added another 25 to ours and you should have heard the moaning about that!

Our flight may have been slow, but one of the other planes carrying teachers to Fairbanks lost engine power briefly and began descending over the mountains. I heard there were some screams on that one! The problem apparently had to do with a vapor lock or something as the pilot switched fuel tanks. They landed okay. By the way, that wasn’t one of Wright Air’s planes.

And now you know which airline is the Wright Choice!

Adams Leaning Wheel Grader #3, Redux

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I photographed this old Adams Leaning Wheel Grader #3 back in 2012 and decided to photograph it again for all the Adams’ fans who have visited that post. I would never have guessed there are so many of you out there!

Many thanks to the 300 grader aficionados who have stopped by over the past 3 years. Have another on me!

Warm Skies & Spring Fever!

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Warm skies and Spring Fever are trending! It’s 12˚F outside and climbing to 18˚ today according to our reprieved forecaster. In fact, he says it is supposed to be warm all week long.

Twelve degrees isn’t going to make a Texan think of Spring, but it sure is stirring blood up here. Snow-gos are whizzing down the streets, people are strolling about and a major epidemic of Spring Fever has struck the village.

Kids have it. Teachers have it. I’m afraid the prognosis is poor – high fevers for the final twelve weeks of school resulting in severe learning impairment.

Let’s see, twelve weeks. That’s a week of in-service in Fairbanks and another for high school championship basketball in Anchorage – a hopeless time for learning.

A week preparing for the omniscient, infallible standardized test and another to take it.

There will be the traditional week of Carnival in Fort Yukon followed by an exodus of our students to Arctic Village for theirs.

Uh, so let me do the math here: 12 weeks less 2, less 2 more, and less 2 more equals…6 weeks!

By then, geese and ducks will be winging across the Flats and many of my kids will be seriously hunting. A successful spring hunt will put food on the table for much of the coming summer, fall and winter. Hunting is an excused activity and for good reason.

I love the last quarter of school!

Shopping For Valentine

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Just a week ago we were still in the embrace of a long & bitter cold spell. We had experienced 40 to 50 below for thirteen days out of sixteen when the forecaster called for -2˚F the next day. It turned out to be -3˚. Pretty good guess – good enough to save the weatherman the one way trip to Siberia that some of us were planning for him.

It is Valentine’s Day today. What do you do for your girl in a place with one general store and the only other form of entertainment is checking your mailbox at the post office? I opted to shop at the store.

The extension cords for keeping your car warm look nice, but we don’t have a car anymore – gave it away to a friend who needed it more. Wait, maybe a paperback romance! No, their space on the little revolving wire rack has been filled with chips. Surely there’s something here that will make Lindsay feel special…

They have needles and thread. Come on Dave, you can do better than this.

Canning jars? Momma said never give work disguised as a gift.

Hey, what’s this? N-e-t-i P-o-t. What the #@&* is that?

Isn’t there some perfume here somewhere, or some bath powder? Girls love bath powder, don’t they? Haha – here??? Not within 150 miles! There’s bar soap. Yeah, Valentine will implode if I give her a bar of Ivory.

Look at all those little Valentine heart candies on the shelf! Too bad we already ate a trillion of those at school yesterday.

Hey, ice cream, they have ice cream! Oh, but all of it melted (I mean it totally liquified) earlier this week when the store freezer went kaput. That’ll taste like disappointment.

Look, there’s still some chocolate on the shelf! Oh, thank heaven for chocolate! One Almond Snickers, one single serving package of Oreos, one Fig Newton bar.

One very grateful and contented girlfriend! I am so lucky!

Leftovers

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Haha. Here’s scraping the bottom of the barrel, hoping it warms up because this morning -54˚F came knocking on my door. Hey, I’m out of good stuff and I need to get out of this cabin and makes some pictures! Warm up, already!

Not really happy with the way these images turned out. Much duller than I expected when I edited them. Oh, well. They are leftovers.

Here are the lows in ˚F for the past 16 days ( most days warmed up into the -30’s for 3 or 4 hours in the afternoon):

  • -45
  • -49
  • -50
  • -50
  • -50
  • -50
  • -34
  • -29
  • -32
  • -45
  • -47
  • -50
  • -50
  • -50
  • -50
  • -54

The forecaster says we’ll see -2˚F tomorrow. We’ll see about that. It’s 9:20 pm and -44˚. 🙂

Darkness of Another Kind

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the Yukon River in winter – sun at zenith

Nine days to winter solstice. Six hours of half light, eighteen of darkness. Snow fell through the night lightly, and continues even now. Temperatures hover around 0 ˚F (-18 ˚C). One year ago today the mercury fell to -52 ˚F, so we consider ourselves blessed by this comparably warm winter.

The whole village has been on electrical short rations since Wednesday night. The situation is expected to be fixed by tomorrow. Of course, if the situation worsens, we may experience darkness of another kind – pitch black.

In the meantime, city and tribal offices are closed. The post office and clinic are closed. The gasoline station and the AC, our only store, are opened for only several hours a day in alternating shifts. Runway lights at the airport have been turned off so planes can only land for  a few hours around noon. And our school is closed.

Hooray for five day weekends – life is so exciting!